If we haven't said this before, let us hereby acknowledge that Big Steve really knew what he was talking about when he came up with his now-classic line, "A project car is never really finished until you sell it."
Rocco Acerrio of A.R.E. Performance...
Rocco Acerrio of A.R.E. Performance & Machine of Simi Valley, California, gives his latest creation-353 ci of blower-ready, small-block-Ford nastiness-a final check, before releasing it to your tech editor for installation in Project T-top coupe. Take good notice of the upper intake plenum. That's Vortech's Mondo ("Igloo") intercooler on top of the new bullet-just one of the latest changes we're making to T-top's power program, as we shoot for 1,000 (or more) rwhp.
Now, don't go running away from this story to go scour Craigslist or eBay sale listings with hopes of finding one for our coupe. It's not for sale. Actually, as far as your tech editor is concerned, the rare T-top 'Stang with a trunk will be in the Jones family for many years to come. So, despite whatever feeling of completion we sometimes may have, the special black notchback will always be a work in progress of sorts.
With this being the case, our latest Project T-top Coupe tech venture comes nearly one year after our experience at the PSCA's Street Car Super Nationals V in Las Vegas; a bad experience, unfortunately, but one that has brought about a new commitment to making the overachieving coupe even better than it was.
A compression check immediately...
A compression check immediately after our ill-fated dragstrip pass pointed toward a serious problem with the No. 7 cylinder. After yanking the engine, all it took was a quick look inside the intake port to see that once again, we were looking at a lot more than just a blown gasket.
We've enjoyed the credit and congratulations that have come for the big-time power the T-top car pumps out with a drivetrain combination that skeptics felt wasn't capable of generating that type of real-world steam. If you're not familiar with the setup, here's a quick general overview of the 3,500-pound Mustang's previous engine and transmission package, which put 866 hp and 727 lb-ft of torque on the ground, and covered the 1,320 in 9 seconds-A.R.E. Performance & Machine 350ci small-block Ford; AFR 205 heads; Scat 3.250-inch crank; and 5.4-inch rods; SRP dished pistons; Comp 0.608-intake/0.612-exhaust hydraulic-roller cam; Holley SysteMAX II intake manifold; non-intercooled Paxton Novi 2000 centrifugal supercharger (20 psi of boost); and Performance Automatic Super Comp AODE transmission with a Precision torque converter.
Here's a close-up look at...
Here's a close-up look at the severe damage we found inside the seventh hole. The piston/ring destruction caused gouging on the cylinder wall that's deep enough to require installing a Darton sleeve and giving the block another 0.010-inch overbore (from 0.145- to 0.155-inch). The bore increase brings cubic inches up to 353-slightly larger than standard 9.5-deck engines and roughly 100 pounds lighter.
Yes, this fairly simple package, made up of off-the-shelf/non-custom pieces, has been responsible for the good times we've experienced while cruising and drag racing the coupe. However, at SCSN V we learned (in catastrophic fashion) that big steam-moreso, the components that make big steam-have their limits. The bottom line is, we have learned and now accept the fact that throwing 20 psi of non-'cooled boost into the Pony's 350-inch bullet is asking a lot of the Sportsman Racing Products dished, forged pistons that we used in the engine (regardless of tuning, high-octane fuel, and so on).
We definitely took the SRP slugs beyond their limits for a much longer time than anyone thought they'd last. The performance is a testament to SRP's durability, as we're sure the pistons would live a lot longer in similar severe-duty conditions if they're used in the lesser-powered engines they're designed for.
This is the piston that suffered...
This is the piston that suffered the most from the intense heat and cylinder pressure inside the coupe's engine. As this damaging situation occurred with our XFI engine-management calibration (tune) being relatively safe, we've come to determine that the lack of an intercooler and its subsequent elevated intake temps are detrimental to the SRP pistons' longevity. The SRPs are forged from 4032 alloy.
In this latest (and if we're lucky, "last") rejuvenation of T-top Coupe's powerplant, we're using our newfound knowledge about pistons to hopefully go beyond the "hundies" and take T-top coupe's horsepower above the 1,000 mark. A rack of eight custom flat-top forgings from JE Pistons gets the nod for this big-steam effort, along with a fresh crankshaft (PN 43022) and rods (PN 65400927) from Scat, and a step up to AFR's 225cc cylinder heads (PN AFR1456).
Despite sustaining fairly severe damage in one cylinder, the old-school Ford Racing Performance Parts 8.2-deck "R" block has been sleeved and continues to serve as Rocco Acerrio's mechanical canvas, from which a new, slightly bigger (353 ci) work of engine art will be created.
The engine's fresh and upgraded...
The engine's fresh and upgraded rotating assembly is highlighted by a custom set of JE Pistons (SRP's parent company), 4.155-inch forgings, and a set of new Scat 5.4-inch connecting rods. The JE Pro Seal ring package is 1/16-inch (top and second) and 3/16-inch (oil), and 0.927-inch pins are used to tie everything together.
With this rebuild comes a new mission. As stated earlier, our T-top coupe definitely has exceeded all the expectations that any of us had at the outset of the project. (It's hard to believe that was back in 2006.)We're still working with the rare Pony, and of course, want to make it even better. For this 'Stang, better comes in the form of more horsepower and our new goal is for the coupe to put down 1,000 (or more) ponies at the feet!